HARRISBURG - After months of chipping away, the last gasps of the harshly punitive consent decree between NCAA and Penn State University have been snuffed out after the inter-collegiate athletics governing body agreed to restore the football team's record under Coach Joe Paterno's leadership and allow the proceeds from the $60 million fine to remain in Pennsylvania programs.
Friday's announcement is likely to put an end to the Commonwealth Court case weeks before the trial's start date, just days after a federal judge refused to rule on the constitutionality of the Endowment Act.
"Programs serving child sexual abuse survivors will now receive millions of dollars as part of the NCAA's proposed settlement with Pennsylvania state officials," the NCAA said in a press statement.
"This lawsuit stemmed from the NCAA's sanctions against Penn State University for its role in allowing serial child sexual abuse to occur on its campus. The proposed settlement agreement with the NCAA, university and state officials, among other things, restores Penn State's vacated wins from 1998 through 2011."
In the wake of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's 2011 arrest and conviction for multiple acts of sexual abuse of minor boys, the NCAA reacted swiftly to institute a litany of fines and penalties against the school. The organization felt justified by the measures criticized by many as overreaching and damaging to students and players that had nothing to do with the crimes.
Along with the $60 million fine, the school also had a four-year ban on postseason play, a four-year reduction of grants-in-aid, four years of probation, and the vacation of sports wins dating back to 1998. In September, the NCAA agreed to relax most of the sanctions, allowing Penn State to participate in postseason bowl games this year and begin awarding scholarships for the 2015-2016 season.
State Sen. Jake Corman proposed legislation in 2013 that required money from fines against public institutions of more than $10 million to remain in the commonwealth, a bill aimed directly at the NCAA and its intent to use the proceeds on a national level. After the Endowment Act's passage, Corman and State Treasurer Rob McCord filed a lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court to enforce the law against the NCAA.
In April 2013, Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey upheld the Endowment Act in a separate ruling, but questioned the validity of the entire consent decree completed by the NCAA as a punishment lodged at Penn State for its alleged failure to fully investigate sexual abuse allegations against Sandusky. Her desire to get the full factual background of the consent decree did not disappear once the parties’ came to an agreement.
Subject to board approval from Penn State and the NCAA, the new agreement between the NCAA and Penn State, replacing the 2012 consent decree between the parties, provides the following:
• Penn State agrees to commit a total of $60 million to activities and programs for the prevention of child sexual abuse and the treatment of victims of child sexual abuse;
• Penn State acknowledges the NCAA's legitimate and good faith interest and concern regarding the Jerry Sandusky matter; and
• Penn State and the NCAA will enter into a new Athletics Integrity Agreement that (with concurrence of the Big Ten) includes best practices with which the university is committed to comply and that provides for the university to continue to retain the services of Sen. George Mitchell and his firm to support the university's activities under the Athletics Integrity Agreement and in the areas of compliance, ethics and integrity.